Column – Verhungern – Heritage and legacy


By Angel Castillo

THIS  week, there is a bit of interesting news in the form of a comeback act. Re-elected councilor Yangot is attempting a revival of his old shelved bill, which would declare any and all of the city’s trees heritage and therefore protected.

Let us divine.

First of all, let it be absolutely clear that I think the spirit of this ordinance is fantastic. Were it fully possible, it would be a grand thing, that each tree in this city will be left behind for future generations. To each child a tree, to each person the pines.

Imagine the grandeur of a city truly robed in pine and foliage, where the natural harmonizes with the unnatural, a fusion of perfect ratios and proportions. 

Now that that’s out of the way, let us divine why that isn’t entirely the case.

The ordinance proposal is a well-meaning plan, but it is a second take. The original was penned and pushed in 2019 and shelved after questions and concerns raised were unable to be resolved.

I am no expert, but I can see why no matter how good in spirit this ordinance is, it will likely go through many changes before it gets implemented, if it gets there. 

The first issue is that there will always be a “need” to expand. The population has a way of steadily increasing, and as dense as Baguio is, the need will always be ever-present. More housing, more commercial space, more of everything will spring up.

This is why I believe that this ordinance is only one of the beginning steps in the war against urban decay. The war needs to be waged on multiple fronts, with many subsequent actions against it needed. 

Urban decay is not as simple as we stop cutting trees and it is solved. Urban decay is also a multi-pronged problem. It has to be reckoned with on all its different fronts. Economics, sociopolitics, culture, and so on – urban decay occurs in different places and affects many fields. 

Preventing the cutting of any trees whatsoever – save of course those that are blatant dangers to life and property – is only a stop-gap measure at best. To truly grapple with this issue, we have to go deep into the depths of the arcane art that is city planning and urban development.

There needs to be a comprehensive long-term plan to arrest urban decay. The use of our remaining land and natural resources must be of maximum value and structured in such a way that we are able to both preserve the environment and grow.

Some of our local politicians have the right idea (I believe, in my non-expert capacity) when they propose spreading out development to our neighbors. I, in my capacity, believe this is the right direction. Bring prosperity and opportunity to neighbors and allow for the city to breathe.

In the meantime, while they grapple with this and implement various measures to arrest urban decay, we need to come to grips with what heritage and legacy we want to leave to our children.

I do not have children of my own, nor a partner to have them with. But my brother is having a child soon, and I would very much like for her to grow up in a Baguio with trees, a city of pines with pines included.

And I’m sure many of you feel the same.

(Angel Castillo writes the bi-weekly column Verhungern as well as this informational bit in third person. For responses or thoughts, email the dedicated email address.)

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